Medical marijuana patients say the state is standing in the way of lower prices

Six companies control 85% of Florida?€™s medical marijuana dispensaries.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Six companies control 85% of Florida’s medical marijuana dispensaries.

Patients and some state leaders said that needs to change.

“The Florida Legislature passed an unconstitutional implementing bill that really held the cannabis industry in Florida back,” State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando. “You have an industry that is calling winners and losers, and letting businesses operate like cartels.”

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On July 9, Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that the state’s licensing system for medical marijuana is unconstitutional.

The court said the primary issue in this case is whether the statute requiring medical marijuana treatment centers, or MMTCs, to be “vertically integrated” and perform all activities in the medical marijuana supply chain from cultivation to distribution is consistent with the definition of MMTC in the Medical Marijuana Amendment.

Days after the court ruling, the governor’s office asked for a review of the order.

If that review is declined, the Florida Supreme Court could take up the case.

Critics, such as Smith, argue that the unconstitutional vertical integration system stifles the free market, leaving patients with two choices -- to buy medical marijuana from legal sources at a higher cost or to buy marijuana on the black market.

"Sticker shock can be the reason for them to be legal patients or driven back onto the black market," Smith said.